HONG KONG (AP) — The Chinese manufacturer of a toy coated with a chemical that can turn into a ''date-rape drug" if ingested apologized Wednesday for damaging the ''Made in China'' label, a quality-control agency said.
Hong Kong's Jssy Ltd. produced the toy beads, coated with a chemical called 1,4-butanediol, said a statement from the Shenzhen Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.
When eaten, the chemical can metabolize into the so-called date-rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate — which can cause breathing problems, loss of consciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.
''The incident has given the 'Made in China' brand a negative (impact) during the Christmas season. I have to deeply apologize,'' company director Liao Juyuan said at a news conference in the southern city of Shenzhen, next to Hong Kong.
Worldwide recalls have been declared for the popular toys, which are sold as Aqua Dots in the United States and Bindeez in Australia. At least nine children in the U.S. and three in Australia have become sick after swallowing the beads.
The bureau's statement said Jssy had used the chemical because it makes the craft beads expand and fuse together when sprayed with water.
''It chose it as a softener and organized the production and export of the toy beads,'' the bureau said.
The Chinese government already has suspended exports of the toys, it said.
The UK distributor of Bindeez brand said Tuesday it expected to lose $5.1 million in sales due to the recalls.
The Character Group PLC said safety tests and the search for a new factory has taken longer than anticipated.
The recall of Aqua Dots came just as the toy industry was starting to see shoppers return to toy stores after summer's high-profile recalls of more than 21 million Chinese-made toys with high levels of lead or dangerous magnets.
Aqua Dots, distributed in the U.S. by Spin Master Ltd., was on many retailers' hot toy lists.